November 2006

Today’s TV viewers remotely turn on their wide-screen surround-sound flat-screen high-definition color television sets to an endless array of local, cable and satellite channels, offering a multiplicity of programming for round-the-clock viewing.

A look-back to Tuesday, July 7, 1953 would find a vastly different scenario – viewers sitting in a darkened room in front of their small screen black-and-white TVs watching a diminutive choice of programs from WBTV, Channel 3, Charlotte, NC. 

Young’s Supply Company sponsored the following WBTV program guide in the Johnson City Press-Chronicle for that summer day: 8:30 Test Pattern, 8:45 Morning News, 9:00 Arthur Godfrey, 10:00 Guiding Light, 10:15 Feminine Touch, 10:30 Strike It Rich, 11:00 Bride & Groom, 11:15 Love of Life, 11:30 Search for Tomorrow, 11:45 Carolina Cookery, 12:30 Garry Moore, 1:00 Freedom Rings, 1:30 Art Linkletter, 2:00 Arthur Godfrey – Talent Scouts, 2:30 Welcome Travelers, 3:00 Betty Freezor, 3:30 Ladies Choice, 4:00 Documentary Theatre, 4:30 Howdy Doody, 5:00 Cartoon Carnival, 5:15 Story Painter, 5:30 Gene Autry, 6:00 Betty Furness, 6:30 Esso Reporter, 6:45 Weatherman, 6:50 Vespers, 7:00 Cavalcade of America, 7:30 I Am the Law, 8:00 Mr. & Mrs. North, 8:30 Arthur Smith, 9:00 Danger, 9:30 The Unexpected, 10:00 (To be announced), 10:15 News & Sports, 10:30 Big Town, 11:00 Robert Montgomery and 12:00 Sign Off.

Daily programming began with a 15-minute continuous “test pattern” that allowed tube watchers to adjust the picture quality on their receivers. Clyde “Cloudy” McLean followed with his weekday five-minute weather broadcast, giving the basics of the local Charlotte climate. Arthur Godfrey, a carryover from radio and known for his dry wit, laid-back mannerisms and folksy personality, had two shows Monday through Friday. An hour-long variety show, “Arthur Godfrey and His Friends,” was shown at 9:00 am followed by a 30-minute variety show, “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” at 2:00 pm.

Couples actually exchanged wedding vows and received prizes on “Bride and Groom,” hosted by Bob Paige and Frank Parker.  Two long-running soap operas, “Love of Life, and Search for Tomorrow” followed that program. “Big Town,” a carryover from radio, depicted a crusading tough-as-nails newspaper editor and his never-ending battle against the perpetrators of crime. The Betty Freezor Show, featuring food recipes by the hostess, was the first TV program to be videotaped in color and shown just two hours after it was recorded, greatly reducing delays in broadcasting.

Warren Hull’s popular “Strike It Rich” program rewarded contestants for their over-the-air tales of personal woe and sacrifice. Sympathetic viewers could make contributions via the show’s philanthropic “heart line.” Art Linkletter’s “House Party” became an overnight success after the likeable host featured guests, games and interviews, including one segment devoted to small children. Art later compiled the youngsters’ witty unpredictable sayings in a best selling book, Kids Say The Darndest Things. Without question, my three favorite offerings from that era were Arthur Smith, Howdy Doody and Gene Autry.

WJHL-TV joined the airwaves in the fall of 1953, ushering in vast improvements in reception quality and introducing a new fangled gadget known as “rabbit ears.” TV was steadily making its climb up the ladder of progress. 

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Cockfighting is a centuries old combative and often deadly blood sport between two specially bred roosters known as gamecocks, held inside an arena referred to as a cockpit.

The event once flourished openly across the nation, usually being played out on a Saturday night. This contentious activity is now illegal in Tennessee and 47 other states; the interdict also extends to those attending such events. Proponents view it as a long-established pleasurable sporting event; opponents see it as an atrocious form of animal cruelty.

While I certainly do not advocate or attempt to glamorize this long-banned vindictive activity, I do find the local history behind it interesting. The animals’ claws were frequently replaced with razor sharp steel blades. Some birds received drug injections to increase their aggressiveness and stamina during the fast paced grueling matches. Spectators often made wagers on their favorite fowls and cheered them toward victory, hoping for a monetary reward.

Bob Taylor, a former Johnson City native and one of the best-known governors in Tennessee history, and a local city businessman, P.H. Wofford, once became involved with the now prohibited sport. Wofford published an 8-page advertising brochure with a Johnson City address that featured game fowl for sale. Information inside it dates the publication to about 1899. The ad gave a short description of four popular strains being sold – Round Head, Red Quills, Dr. Morrow and Wofford’s Private Strain. Prices included cocks $5.00, stags $3.00, hens $2.00, pullets $1.25, one cock and two hens $7.00, one stag and two pullets $5.00 and 15 eggs for hatching $2.00. 

The turn-of-the-century advertiser stressed the fact that pure bloodlines were critical in breeding superior fighting specimens, referring to them as “feathered gladiators.” The eye-catching item in the pamphlet was Dr. Morrow, a gamecock that had been presented to Governor Bob Taylor by a Tennessee state representative from Middle Tennessee. The celebrated fowl was said to be of perfect symmetry and beauty, having been a three-time winner and was what game fanciers called “a model broad cock.”

In 1897, Governor Taylor’s official business summoned him to Nashville. He brought Dr. Morrow and three of his favorite hens with him and loaned them to Wofford. The breeder kept them for two years, during which time he raised some high quality fowls. The brochure gave no indication that either Governor Taylor or Mr. Wofford actually participated in the ring matches.

Dr. Morrow’s offspring – aggressive, fast and vicious fighters – became highly sought-after. They were described as being representative of “southern blood.” The demand for the birds quickly exceeded the supply, as orders were received from customers all across the country, Canada and Mexico. The small booklet contained 10 testimonials from the many thousands of happy customer responses received by the breeder. Over time, old age caught up with the now celebrated “doctor,” eventually depriving him of what he did best. The elderly bird was summarily chloroformed, mounted and placed in Bob Taylor’s personal library. 

The final entry in the small booklet was an ad for curing Roup, a dreadful respiratory disease that especially targeted game fowl. The remedy, Rupe Cure, sold postpaid for 60 cents a   bottle or $1.50 per dozen. 

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I received a note from the family of a former ETSU professor, referencing an old undated postcard advertisement. Since the responder asked to remain anonymous, I will call her Jane Doe.

The card shows a beautiful two-story brick house, identified as “Westover Manor – Johnson City, Tennessee – Mrs. George S. Hannah, Hostess.” Jane was interested in knowing where the house was located and if it is still standing. She indicated that it looked familiar to her, but that she could not seem to place it. The stately residence is surrounded by a small brick wall with two driveway pillars, each with a large “H” on the front side and a light fixture on top. What appears to be a partially obscured Model A Ford parked in the driveway dates the photo to roughly the early 1930s. The reverse side of the card declares: “A modern, high-class private home catering to transients, weekly or monthly guests. Room rates at $1.00 to $1.50.”

I located a second postcard of the Hannah business, offering additional information: “Westover Manor Guest House – The finest in the south; Known from coast to coast and from Canada to Florida; Johnson City, a central point going north, south, east and west; Three miles from city on old Jonesboro Road; Famous from coast to coast for delicious home-cooked meals.”

Ms. Doe’s mother readily identified the photo, telling her daughter that the house was on the Old Jonesborough Highway just beyond East Tennessee State University. The Doe family had driven past it daily for over 20 years. Ma Doe further recalled that John A. Clack, onetime Bursar for East Tennessee State College, and his wife Vera purchased the house from the Hannah's, rented it for a while and then sold it a fraternity.

Jane searched through a 1974 ETSU Buccaneer yearbook and found a photograph of the house with Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat members and their dates posing in front of it. Jane then recalled a fire in the 1980s that destroyed the interior of a house at about 2800 W. Walnut Street, which she believes was the former Hannah residence. The house was eventually demolished and the property sold, becoming the site of a Sunoco station.” 

According to Jane: “The house was a little over a mile past where W. Walnut Street turns off the State of Franklin Road going toward Jonesborough. The original house and property had four pillars, two on either end of a semi-circular driveway with a brick wall in-between. The drive circled up to the front of the house and back out to the highway on the eastern side. No wonder I felt like I had seen the place; said the Doe daughter. “I grew up driving past there. I remember the brick wall and pillars even more than the house.”

Ned Irwin of the ETSU Archives of Appalachia added more info: “It is listed in the 1939 city directory, but the only address is the Old Jonesboro Highway. The street listing (city limits) for W. Walnut Street then did not extend beyond the railroad overpass. By 1968, the Westover Manor Apartments are found at 2810 W. Walnut, which would be beyond the railroad overpass and across the street from old Bernard School.

According to Jane, the only remnant of the former Hannah guesthouse appears to be an altered east driveway pillar, standing obscurely next to a fire hydrant and metal utility pole. The “H,” like the residence itself, is now but a memory.  

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In about 1958, this 16-year old young man had a 90-customer Johnson City Press-Chronicle newspaper route that encompassed five North Johnson City neighborhoods – Althea, Lake, Crocus, Lakeview and the adjoining section of Oakland.

Deliveries were six days a week; surprisingly, there was no Saturday paper. I was instructed to finish my weekday route by 5 pm and Sunday ones by 7 am. This was doable providing the bulk papers arrived on time. I began my weekday jaunt after arriving home from school at 3:30, walking from our Baxter Street home to the shared drop-off box at the overgrown spare lot on the northwest corner of Lakeview and Mountcastle. My route commenced two blocks away with the Brown family at 901 Althea and concluded with the Coxes at 1719 Lakeview, just a stone’s throw from my favorite recreational hangout – Cox’s Lake.

Most clientele specified exactly where they wanted their paper placed; randomly leaving them on sidewalks or driveways was not an option. I carried my papers in a thick white cloth bag that hung over my shoulder. My load was quite weighty at the beginning of the route, especially on Sundays, but was gradually relieved as I hurriedly trekked from door to door. Since rain was often a threat, I kept a large plastic bag in the bottom of my paper sack so as not to have to face irate customers who had to read soggy newspapers. I endured a daily ritual of coping with roughly five annoying canines, the worst offender being the Hagood family’s small white mutt on Althea.

Sporadically, Jesse Curtis, the circulation manager, would drive by to see how I was doing, his presence usually being made near the end of the route. The Sunday edition presented a whole new challenge. Not only was it thicker, it was delivered primarily in the darkness of the early morning hours when an occasional nocturnal critter would make an appearance. On cold mornings, three of us delivery boys ate breakfast while waiting for our papers to arrive. We built a small fire, heated cans of soup and consumed the warm contents during our brief wait. Ice and snow required my dressing extra warm for my hour and a half excursion. Dad would occasionally show compassion for his young son by escorting me by car on Sundays.

Collection day Fridays were particularly burdensome, as I needed to deliver papers, simultaneously collect money and meet the delivery deadline. I carried a long narrow loose-leaf hardbound notebook for keeping records of payments. I stored all monies in a leather Press-Chronicle pouch with a zipper. Several patrons hid their payments in unique locations near the front of their houses; others required me to catch them at home to collect. One customer had me stop by his downtown business for imbursement.

In spite of my efforts to finish collecting on Fridays, the task often extended into Saturday mornings. I made my deposit at the newspaper office on Saturday afternoons. An attendant behind a long counter took my pouch, counted the bills and coins by hand while I waited. She then paid me my salary. Later, the business acquired an automatic coin-sorting machine.

Today, I cannot walk into the Johnson City Press office without gazing at that long counter and reminiscing about my days of yesteryear when I was a proud hardworking wage-earning paperboy.  

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Berchie Isenberg Larkins is proud of her legendary grandpa, Jacob Artemas “Artie” Isenberg (1877-1951), one of the last horseback-riding doctors in East Tennessee. She related his story in a recent interview.

The physician and his family lived in Sullivan County near the Washington County line, where Artie provided medical services to the two counties for over 40 years. The equestrian chose horseback as his mode of transportation, preferring it to wheeled vehicles – buggies, wagons and automobiles. He never owned a car.


Artie Isenberg in his younger days


    An older Dr. Isenberg riding Old Minnie

The six-foot three-inch medical man maintained between 12 and 15 horses on his farm. He named his first one Thugie after a popular medicine of that day; his last one was called Old Minnie. Isenberg once owned an Appaloosa that would dash off immediately when its rider’s foot was placed in the stirrup, requiring that everything be securely attached to the saddle before mounting. Sometimes Artie and his loyal steed had to navigate creeks, ford rivers and trod deep mud to arrive at his requested destination.

Visits to the sick resulted in stays ranging from a few minutes to several days, depending on the patient’s condition and distance from the doctor’s home. The family would reciprocate by feeding their pipe-smoking special guest hot cooked meals and providing lodging – a cot, couch or chair – near the ailing person. On a few occasions, Dr. Isenberg brought patients home with him so his wife, Lettie, could nurse them back to health while he made other visits.

Mrs. Larkins remembers that her broad-shouldered grandpa usually wore an old gray pin-stripped suit, white dress shirt and worn-out broadband felt hat. Protective clothing included “arctics,” waterproof footwear that fit over regular shoes, and “slickers,” rubberized outer garments used as rainwear. The doctor would occasionally return home so frozen that his wife would meet him at the barn with a teakettle of warm water to thaw his legs and feet and restore feeling to them.

Dr. Isenberg’s formal education began in 1901 when he enrolled at Kentucky University in Louisville.  A photo taken in the college’s Anatomy 101 class shows the future physician and several classmates standing behind a cadaver lying on a board supported by two sawhorses. Artie was granted a temporary license to practice medicine or surgery in the State of Tennessee in 1907 from Elizabethton and a permanent one a year later from Knoxville.

The newly authorized practitioner returned to East Tennessee and interned a short time with a Dr. Horne who lived near Colonial Heights. Artie kept a human skeleton in his room until his stepmother abruptly buried it behind their house. She told her stepson the poor soul deserved to be in a grave and not propped up in somebody’s house.

Dr. Isenberg taught classes briefly at Depew’s Chapel near Bay’s Mountain and later at Pactolus School on the Crooked Road. It was at this latter location that Artie met his future wife, Mary Lettie Hunt. The couple soon married and eventually became the parents of two boys and two girls.

Berchie recalled: “My grandpa was hired by the CC&O Railroad to treat worker injuries incurred on the job.” This was short-lived and he soon established his own private practice. Artie’s professional services included being a doctor, dentist and veterinarian. During visits to homes, he often treated their horse, cow, mule or hog. During the flu epidemic of 1919, the doctor spent much of his time traveling from one home to another. He once remarked that he never lost a patient to the outbreak.

Isenberg became known for his accurate diagnostic skills. Although he routinely performed minor surgery, he referred those requiring major operations to one of the closest cities having a hospital – Roanoke, Chattanooga and later Bristol. Berchie recalls when her grandpa would cover a sick person with several blankets, turn the heat up as high as possible and cause him or her to sweat profusely, allowing him to perform a visual perspiration analysis.

Mrs. Larkins further remembers: “A young child had been incorrectly diagnosed with a brain tumor. Grandpa was called in and quickly determined the youngster to be suffering from TB (tuberculosis) of the brain.” Artie loved attending the Appalachian Fair each year in Gray, often providing complimentary doctoral consultations with those with whom he came in contact.

A humorous incident occurred at the home of one of Artie’s female patients. He placed a thermometer in her mouth and waited the traditional three minutesto read it. Afterwards, the woman’s husband asked if he could buy “one of those contraptions.” He explained that this was the first time in all the years they had been married that she had stopped talking for three minutes during non-sleeping hours.

Dr. Isenberg once rode to a residence to assist with the delivery of a baby. After examining the lady, he unexpectedly informed her that she wasn’t pregnant. She disputed his diagnosis, telling him that she been married long enough to have a baby.

Sundays brought an influx of people suffering from dental problems to the doctor’s home. Artie placed two wooden straight chairs back-to-back and asked his patient to straddle one chair and hold on tightly to the back rails. The old-timey doctor then put his knee on the other chair, reached into the person’s mouth with his special forceps and yanked on the bad tooth until it came out. Frequently, the patient was pulled out of the chair, onto the floor and even off of it before the tooth finally released its grip.

Berchie has her grandfather’s priceless collection of books, journals and other artifacts. Unfortunately, the doctor’s medical bag and contents were sold years ago. Isenberg kept meticulous records of his patients’ names, dates of visits and fees charged. There were also several “Memorandum of Births, small booklets detailing the names of the parents and baby. Many entries simply indicated “male” or “female.”

An examination of the collection’s massive data reveals compensation in the form of cash, goods and labor. The books between 1912 and 1918 were especially interesting. Credit was granted for a day’s work at the Isenberg home – working in the garden: $1.00, hauling hay: $1.25, working on the roof: $1.50 and killing hogs: (amount not shown). Another entry reduced a patient’s bill by $5 after Artie was given a pig. 

The granddaughter’s collection also contained several personalized prescription pads from Jones-Vance Drug Store (Kertesy Korner) in Johnson City; the Merry Garden, Inc., Broad Street, Kingsport; and the Clinchfield Drug Company, Market and Broad, Kingsport. One receipt on file is a July 11, 1914 order to Masengill Brothers Pharmacy in Bristol for a one-inch spool of “Ad. Plaster” at a cost of $.50 plus $.05 Parcel Post.

About 1951, illness struck the now-aging horseback-riding doctor, greatly restricting his practice. People began picking him up in their automobiles and driving him to a sick person’s home. Artie’s oft-quoted two-step philosophy for his successful medical practice was “making early diagnosis and using the right medication.”

Berchie Larkins concluded the interview by saying that her 74-year-old renowned grandpa “met the Great Physician in December 1951,” concluding a long and impressive medical career. 

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Ruth Cacy Fink has a 94-year story to tell that chronicles her long life in East Tennessee. The Johnson City resident wisely documented her remembrances in a 21-page well-written journal.

Three of Ruth’s family members contributed to the project: Judy Steven (niece who urged her to write her memories and who was impressed that she raised two children during the Depression years without government help), Patsy Hayes (daughter who published her work) and Julia Rhees (granddaughter who videotaped an interview with her and made DVDs from it.

Ruth became quite animated as she related her memoirs:  “I was born on July 20, 1915 in Dante, Virginia. My parents, George Beverly Cacy and Virginia Belle Steele Cacy, had eight children. I was the youngest of three boys and five girls. Mother married very young. She died a few days before Christmas in 1916 when I was only 17-months-old. My 16-year-old sister, Jessie, and a black lady who we called Aunt Sally, who stayed with us, helped raise me.”

Ruth shared several prized family items. They included the only photo she has of her mother that was taken at about age 35, a letter her mother wrote to her husband before Ruth was born and letters from two sisters, Lulu and Jessie, and two brothers, Garnet and Basil, written to their father asking him to come home to a church baptism and dinner on the ground that day. Mr. Cacy was working in the shops of the Clinchfield Railroad and came home only on weekends.

When Ruth was about three years old, the railroad transferred her father to Erwin, Tennessee after he severely injured his leg when accidentally stepping into an open manhole, leaving him with a noticeable limp. According to her, “We lived on Main Street across from where the old YMCA is now located. We children used to get in the front porch swing and sing and swing until our bare feet hit the ceiling. A railroad man often came by and taught us songs.

“Occasionally, hobos come by our house in search of a meal or wanting work. My sister would go inside, fix them a plateful of food and let them sit on the back steps to eat.  

“We were living on First Street in Erwin when our house burned. The only thing saved was the piano and a statue that sat on top of it. After that, we began living in rental houses that Papa located for us. When he moved into one of them, he made so many house improvements that the landlord would eventually sell it, forcing us to find another rental house.

“I attended a one-room school for grades 1-8, with each row of seats designated for a different grade. I recall receiving a “box supper”one day at school. One of the teacher’s brothers bought one for my niece, Pauline, and me. I was so shy I do not think I ate very much of it.

“My sister and I occasionally rode the passenger train from Erwin to St. Paul, Virginia where she lived. I stayed at her house a while and then rode the train back home. Daddy gave us free railroad passes to use. Occasionally, we took the train to Elkhorn to view the scenery. I rode the Tweetsie Railroad a few times. About twice a week, locals traveled by train from Erwin to Johnson City to shop at downtown businesses.

“During the Great Depression, Papa was only able to work about twice a month. To make ends meet, he raised chickens and planted a garden. The happy times from that era were when we moved near the Fishery on the other side of the railroad tracks. When the fishponds froze in the winter, we went ice-skating. Pauline and I were so young we did not do much skating because we kept running home to get warm. I went to Sunday School at the Fishery in a little one-room church on the hill. We had fun picking persimmons on the way home. We lived in this community for about a year.

“In 1935, I graduated from Unicoi County High School. After I was grown, Papa retired from the railroad and we moved from Erwin to Johnson City. I married Robert Fink in 1937, but the marriage lasted only 4 years. Afterward, I moved in with my daddy on Myrtle Avenue just a short distance from Roan Street. He rented an apartment upstairs. His first monthly Social Security check was $18. My son paid $5 for our first car. I took it home and put it in the backyard where he disassembled it, replaced parts and got it running.”

Ruth recollected several downtown Johnson City businesses in the early 1940s: Penney’s, King’s, Charles Store, Masengill’s, Home Federal Savings and Loan, Walker Furniture Store, Siler’s, Travis Kinkead’s Flowers, S.H. Kress, Woolworth's, McLellan’s, Betty Gay, Hannah’s, The Chocolate Bar, Thomas Ladies’ Shop, Thomas Men’s Shop and the Squire Shop.

Over time, Ruth worked for numerous area businesses: Walter Martin Agency (insurance), a service station owned by Carl Young (also owned The Little Store), Montgomery Ward (was credit manager), Walker Furniture Company, Baylor-Nelms Furniture Company (Kingsport) and Swift & Company (during the war years). The latter one supplied meat to the Spot and Dixie Barbeque restaurants.

Ruth recalled when her father and stepmother, Allie, once worked at the John Sevier Hotel. He was employed in the shops maintaining the hotel’s equipment; she was a telephone switchboard operator. Monroe McArthur was hotel manager.

Mrs. Fink concluded her journal with the words: “This is the best I can do with this story. I hope you can make sense out of it.” This family did a superb job of preserving Ruth’s story, both in a journal and on video. Thank you Ruth Fink for the memories.  

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The mere mention of Henry Johnson evokes an image of Johnson City’s modest founder who among other duties served as farmer; storeowner; postmaster; hotel landlord; first mayor; and railroad depot, freight, ticket and express agents.   

Johnson’s strong fervor and high energy level was instrumental in his developing the little mid-1800s mountainous village known as Johnson’s Depot into the sprawling prosperous city we know today.

The founder had another contribution not generally known; he invented, developed, patented, manufactured and sold a threshing machine, a device used to separate grain from stalks and husks. This little-known fact surfaced in 1941 after Judge Samuel Cole Williams (donor of cash and land to Mayne Williams Library) spotted an advertisement in the October 1836 edition of “Tennessee Farmer” magazine. Johnson would have been 25 years old at the time.

According to the ad: “Johnson’s Thrashing (old spelling) Machine. We certify that we have seen in operation, by two horsepower, this machine which, thrashing at the rate of 48 dozen of wheat per hour, which is effectually cleaned. (Signed) John G. Ruble, Archibald Williams, William G. Looney, Jesse B. Hunter, George W. Hoss, Henry Massengill, John Hoss, Michael Massengill.

“Rights for Sale: The thrasher may be seen in operation at the plantations of Mrs. Sarah Hammer and William Massengill in Washington County. Apply at John Hoss on Brush Creek or at the subscriber in the neighborhood of said Hoss. (Signed) Henry Johnson, September 6, 1836.”

The name, John Hoss, is significant because Henry married John Hoss’s daughter, Mary Ann. Williams contacted the Patent Office in Washington DC and received confirmation that the invention was patented in the name of “Henry Johnson of Washington County, Tennessee” on May 29, 1835. The judge, in turn, documented his discovery in an article for the May 4, 1941 edition of the Johnson City Staff-News.

The new innovation was an important contrivance in the first half of the 1800s and afterwards since wheat was the leading money crop of Tennessee. Washington County was considered premier among the other counties in the state for wheat production harvesting grain that was highly sought after because of its hardness and milling quality.

For this reason, flourmills were abundant throughout the countryside. Several businessmen of Jonesborough and local millers formed small businesses that shipped flour down the Watauga, Holston and Tennessee rivers to markets as far south as the northern regions of Alabama and Mississippi.

 Among the participants in this endeavor were two leading Jonesborough mercantile firms, Crouch and Emmerson (W. Crouch and Thomas B. Emmerson) and Carter and Jones (David W. Carter and James H. Jones).

Emmerson was the son of Judge Thomas Emmerson who served on the Tennessee Supreme Court. When he retired from the bench, he moved from Knoxville to Jonesborough where he had been the first mayor and engaged in the practice of law and newspaper publishing.

In 1835-36, the elder Emmerson established the “Tennessee Farmer,” which he believed to be the first purely agricultural journal of the Central South. If true, Jonesborough has two noteworthy distinctions: the first agricultural journal and an 1820s magazine, “The Emancipator,” produced by Elihu Embree that was devoted solely to the emancipation of slaves.

Henry Johnson’s contribution to the thriving milling business was to invent, patent, manufacture, and sell threshing machines. Although it is not known how successful he was, his laudable venture was likely not overly successful because affordable and adequate transportation for moving manufactured products such as his new machine was difficult to find. This was prior to the coming of the railroads, thereby restricting access to markets due to the seclusion of East Tennessee at the time. 

The majority of shipping vessels hauled flour and numerous articles fabricated of iron. Very little wheat was grown below Knoxville and almost none in Alabama and Mississippi, which were cotton regions. Another problem for Johnson was that his threshing machine was not the only product on the market; he received ample competition from Pennsylvania and the Valley of Virginia.

The magazine ad revealed those who were among the progressive farmers of the 1830’s in Washington, Carter, and lower Sullivan Counties. The George Hoss home was a log structure, which later gave place to a house of “more distinction.” John Hoss’s farm was located on what became known as Carnegie Addition, his residence having stood on the site of “Orchard Place” at what is now the land surrounding 825 E. Fairview Avenue.

John was likely the first Hoss in the area. His father, Jacob, developed the “Hoss apple,” a species believed to be destined to win a reputation of excellence throughout the land. Unfortunately, it was “improved” out of existence.

Another supposition is that the first manufacturing plant within the city limits was on the Hoss estate and operated by Henry Johnson.

The discovery of Henry Johnson as an inventor adds yet another accolade to this impressive man. 

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Kate Watson and Mack Houston have warm feelings for Cave Springs School that stood near Milligan College between 1909 and 1955. During the 1930s, both individuals attended this eight grade two-story wooden institute alongside Buffalo Creek, east of a bridge on State Route 359 (Okolona Road).

Mrs. Watson’s father, Samuel S. Cole, a renowned educator for 45 years in the Carter County school system, was principal at the grammar school for 17 years. “I started school at age four,” said Kate, “because of my fondness for Mary Buck, the first grade teacher. I graduated from Happy Valley High School at age 16.”

The principal’s daughter supplied several old documents and photos. Property for the new school was purchased in Nov. 1906; classes commenced with the 1909 school year. Cave Springs School served Okolona youngsters, while nearby Silver Lake School was for Milligan youth.

According to Mack: “The schoolhouse had four classrooms, with two grades sharing each one. Each room held between 30 and 40 students. All classes were downstairs; the upstairs was used for storage. The school had three principals over the years – Mr. Cole, Wayne Gourley and C.C. Price. Mary Buck taught grades 1-2; Blanche Gourley, 3-4; Francis Anderson, 5-6; and Samuel Cole, 7-8. Courses included Penmanship, Arithmetic, English, Geography, Reading, Health, American History and Tennessee History. The school provided textbooks for students. Each room had a pot-bellied stove either in the front or center of the room. One student chore was to go outside each morning and carry wood into the classroom.

“Classes were from 8:00 am until 3:30 pm, with a 30-minute lunch break and two 15-minute recess periods. Our only time off was one or two weeks at Christmas. Students brought a lunch box or brown paper bag that often contained jelly biscuits to class each morning. There were no school buses. Most of us walked 2-3 miles each way, some coming from as far away as five miles. That was pretty rough in cold weather. School officials tried to locate a school every three to four miles so kids did not have so far to travel. In the fall, we had apple trees along the way that allowed us to stop for a treat. We crossed creeks, sometimes using sticks to vault across streams. These were fun times.”   

Mack commented on the school’s crude bathroom facilities: “Two heavy rough-hewn oak board “four-seater” outhouses stood near the school, one for boys and another for girls. He related a daily ritual at the school:  Mr. Cole started school each morning by opening a partition between his office and an adjoining classroom. This provided a small auditorium for the whole school to convene. Teachers stood along the back while students sat on the floor down front.

“Mr. Cole read the Bible, led in the Pledge of Allegiance and had prayer. Students then went to their individual classrooms for Bible verse memorization. We each recited one verse every morning. There were strict rules for conduct while at school; cursing, bullying and fighting were strictly forbidden. Students responded to their elders with ‘yes madam,’ ‘no madam,’ ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir.’ Minor infractions meant staying in from recess and writing repetitive sentences on the blackboard; major ones resulted in a trip to the principal’s office for a paddling.”

Mrs. Watson said the school had a code of discipline with the number of licks corresponding to the severity of the infraction. Boys were paddled on their behinds. The Elizabethton Health Department sent a nurse to school once a year to administer shots to all the kids. She always wore a white uniform, typical of that era. 

“The area contained numerous itinerate families working on local farms,” said Mack, “They earned wages of 10 cents an hour. Most were large families and left a big void when they moved on to other work.”

Kate said times were so tough that students occasionally missed classes in order to provide assistance on the family farm. Most of the students were poor. Teachers brought extra food, clothing and personal hygiene items each day for those who were disadvantaged. Students wore patched hand-me-down clothes. Girls wore dresses, usually fabricated by their mother from cow food bags and referred to as “chop” bags.

Mack remembered Mr. Cole dismissing school when snowstorms hit the area. Parents came to school with heavy clothing and escorted their youngsters home. Houston commented about recess activities: “Boys and girls played together. We had dodge ball and baseball using sponge rubber balls. My favorite sport was hitting a small ball with flat boards or bats.”

Kate said she often stood on a hill near the school and watched cars go down the Erwin Highway: “Barely 3-4 cars passed in an hour. It was exciting to see the big Greyhound Bus whiz by on its way to Asheville.”

Mack commented about beautiful Buffalo Creek that ran within 150 yards along the school’s east and north sides. The boys fished for suckers and then dammed the creek to form a swimming hole. The former student added: “We drank water that was cold and delicious from an old spring below the school that came out from under a rock near Buffalo Creek.”

Cave Springs School remained in operation until a devastating fire destroyed it in the early 1940s. It was summarily rebuilt, but later burned a second time. Overheated stove flues were a frequent source of fires.

Cave Springs School closed its textbooks forever in 1955. After sitting idle for seven years, it was razed in 1962 and the property sold at auction. A brick house now stands at the site as a memorial. On April 8, 1997, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Senate Bill No. 1128 designating the bridge near where the old school stood as the “Samuel S. Cole Memorial Bridge.” The proclamation stated in part: “Professor Cole was a man of high morals and exemplary character and was an instrumental force as an educator in Carter County. He was truly an inspirational leader among his peers.”

To former students like Kate Watson and Mack Houston, the old grammar school still warmly burns, like the old pot-bellied stoves, in their hearts and memories.    

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